Choirmasters love it when God says, “Here, my child, sing this anthem or hymn this week.”
God’s directions or desires are not always so completely obvious, which is why I maintain that God expects us to use our intellect when seeking God’s will.
One old priest friend in my life used to begin his seasonal confirmation instruction classes by saying at the very first meeting, “When you come to the Episcopal Church, don’t check your brain at the door!” Good advice.
I enjoy wrestling with our lectionary readings, rich that they are, brainstorming congregational hymns, choral music and organ literature that will bring to life the spoken and preached word that is also centered around these thematic readings.
However, occasionally something pops up through the readings in which God is saying, “Here, sing this.” Okay.
Everyone loves the Psalms, and this Sunday’s example is a great one. Who can refute
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
“Franz Josef Haydn just happened to write a chorus using this text for his oratorio The Creation. It makes a lovely choral anthem, so why don’t you sing it this Sunday?” Okay, thanks.
Franz Josef Haydn (1734-1809) composed his oratorio The Creation between 1797-1798. Many musical scholars consider it to be his opus maximum. The work celebrates and depicts the creation from the Book of Genesis and is organized in three sections for chorus and soloists: In Part I and Part II, the soloists are the voices of three angels, Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor) and Raphael (bass). In Part III, the bass and soprano soloists represent Adam and Eve.
Adding just a couple more verses and giving these words over to Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, Haydn managed to compose some nineteen pages of glorious music.
One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19:2, 4)
Haydn, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and many others have done this same sort of thing throughout the centuries. For his closing section of the last movement of Messiah, Handel managed to write seven pages of fugue using only the word “Amen.”
Three of our own Parish Choir angels, section leaders in the choir, will sing the roles of Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael this Sunday morning. I am merely the grateful casting director in this effort.
“So, God, thanks for the blatantly obvious anthem selection for this Sunday. And thank you for choristers and soloists who are unafraid to tackle one of the biggies. We have had such fun resurrecting and relearning this masterpiece, and we are grateful to have this piece in our Parish Choir repertoire.”
“You’re very welcome, my son.”